Start Up Businesses – Keeping on Track For Launch

I’ve been lucky (or maybe unlucky) enough to be involved with several start up organisations over the years. All of them have successfully launched and all except one is still in place, the other changed their area of operations and moved countries.

Getting to launch however can be a nightmare, you have a new team at senior level undergoing the usual storming, forming, norming and performing with all the tension that brings, while you also need to develop a company culture and bring your product or service to market as quickly as possible so you can start earning as well as spending.

In my experience there are a few key factors that determine the fastest path and the most complete launch experience:

Make a plan – planning is almost always lacking in these environments, people’s enthusiasm for the project leads to an endless string of meetings in which nothing is ever decided or agreed upon. All of this could be avoided by having a plan, your first key hires must be capable of putting together a high level project plan of how they will deliver your launch.

This should include a breakdown of all essential items and “nice to have” items too. Don’t spend forever debating the plans and involving everyone in the building, if you’ve chosen someone to lead an area – let them lead. Make sure their plan specifies the resources required and timescales (or it isn’t a plan) and all objectives covered in the plan are measurable and specific.

Once you have all the plans – eliminate the “nice to haves”. That’s right, get rid of them – if you find someone completes their “essential” plan faster than expected then allow them to put “nice to haves” back in the process. But it is far more important to get to a launch and start earning revenue, than it is to polish everything to absolute perfection (the exception to this being very high-end brand launches).

Stick to the plan and hold people accountable for it, but ensure you give them the authority to deliver their plan. The next major failing is that no-one looks at their plans once they’re in place, they allow their enthusiasm to distract them and again they end up in meetings that last all day and achieve nothing.

By all means take a consultative approach but make sure that you have only a single decision maker who has the authority to push through work and keep it on track. Failing to do this will leave your business full of very tired committees who don’t deliver on any objective but appear to be working very hard indeed.

When things fall apart, don’t play the blame game. Unless someone is consistently unable to perform, don’t start witch hunts and punishment sessions. It is perfectly normal in start up situations for things to go wrong, and for vital data for specific areas not to be captured, and so on…

It really doesn’t matter how you got to the point of failure, what matters is how you will fix the problem and move on as fast as possible to recover the lost ground. Meetings that focus on finger pointing and evasion of responsibility simply don’t help with this process at all.

However if someone significantly underperforms on a regular basis, get rid of them as fast as possible. Start up situations do not allow for carrying dead weight, and many people who are perfectly competent in established organisations are a disaster when they realise they can’t rely on process and procedures already in place. So show them the door, gently and wish them luck but get someone in who can deliver.

Don’t overuse consultants. Want to upset your entire team? Hire a group of consultants on ridiculous rates to cover projects where the expertise is already available in house. There are times when consultants make perfect sense, but you should have a firm brief for them, and hold them to delivery.

Finally, communicate your successes. Start up businesses are hard work, people work long hours and push to deliver, so when they do you must acknowledge that and allow people to celebrate a little.

Building a company from scratch is a demanding process, one that can be made much easier by having a plan, sticking to it, learning from mistakes and focusing on keeping people happy in their environment. It will save you time, money and effort and bring you to a successful launch.